Group 20 rugby league
THE long search for a coach is finally over for the Griffith Waratah Tigers.
Former junior Kose Lelei has put pen to paper with the club and will be captain-coach for the 2014 season in a move that has instantly lifted the spirits of the Group 20 strugglers.
The flashy playmaker takes over from Viliami Ngu and Danny Graham and brings a wealth of higher-level experience to the 'Tahs, who have struggled to attract players since a woeful 2013 campaign.
That should all change now that a delighted club president Ken Wells has his man.
"He's signed, sealed and delivered," he told The Area News.
"We're over the moon. It's just a big relief for everyone.
"We've been sweating on this for the last two months.
"Everyone was worried about the stories all the other clubs have been spreading about us folding.
"I used to have long blonde hair a month ago, fair dinkum."
The signing of Lelei transforms the landscape of Griffith rugby league after the Black and Whites secured an even bigger coup in the form of ex-NRL star David Milne.
Both clubs propped up the Group 20 ladder last season and struggled to stay competitive, with their only wins coming in derby matches against each other.
Now the Waratahs and the Black and Whites both have experienced leaders as they look to put a difficult few years behind them and attempt to relive past glories.
Lelei also had offers on the table from the Dapto Canaries and Temora, now coached by another former Waratah in Michael Henderson.
The pair played together for the Illawarra Cutters last year but it is believed Lelei's desire to begin his coaching career swayed him towards a return to his hometown.
In additon, the Waratahs will have the services of Lelei's brother Niko, who also played for the Bulldogs under 20s side, while the coach is expected to bring with him another front-rower.
That's on top of the three New Zealanders already signed by the club.
"He grew up here, he's born and bred, he's family orientated and a great bloke," Wells said.
"He'll get on very, very well with the players, committee and supporters.
"People have been ringing and asking when he's signing so they can come back and train, so he should attract a few more to training."
However, Lelei will not begin his role until accommodation has been sorted for his family.
Wells said the club has found it difficult to source appropriate housing and is open to any suggestions or assistance from the Waratahs family.
Time is of the essence, with many clubs already deep into their pre-season campaigns and preparing for the West Wyalong Knockout at the end of the month.
"We've still got to sort that out but he's signed, so at least we know we've got him and everyone's happy," Wells said.